June 9, 2013 in Region

Oregon high school graduates trail nation in attending college

Associated Press
 

PORTLAND – Nearly 40 percent of Oregon high school graduates do not attend college, a number that puts the state behind the national average and far behind the state’s goal of getting 80 percent of its young people to earn a college credential.

Those numbers will confine a large share of Oregon’s future workforce to low-wage jobs, the Oregonian reported.

A clearinghouse of national enrollment data found that among Oregon’s high school class of 2011, just 61 percent enrolled in a college or community college anywhere in the country by fall 2012.

The national average is 68 percent.

Two years ago, Oregon adopted a formal goal of getting 40 percent of its young people to earn a four-year degree and 40 percent an associate’s degree or industry certificate.

Generally, the number of students who go on to college from any given Oregon district closely tracks the number of graduates whose families aren’t low-income.

The district serving the state’s wealthiest neighborhood sent 86 percent of its 2011 graduates to college. No other district appeared close to meeting the 80 percent mark.

That is especially true of rural districts, which have some of the lowest college-going rates.

To combat the issue of students unprepared for college, some districts are eliminating low-level math and science courses to ensure students get appropriately rigorous class loads.

Counselors say it isn’t only academics where schools must take a strong hand with students. The benefits of additional years of education must be made clear, and tangible steps must be established to show students a path to higher education.

Bright spots, such as college partnerships, show promise.

Portland State University offers a class taken by about half of Jefferson High School seniors that requires them to navigate the PSU campus, do research at the PSU library, and practice the rigorous thinking and writing required for a college class, Principal Margaret Calvert said.

“It’s important to make sure that our students understand how college works and have a tangible connection to college before they leave high school,” Calvert said. “We want them to walk that path with an adult they trust, who knows the system. You can’t underestimate how much support kids need to do that.”

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